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When Manmohan Singh warned of China's "new assertiveness" last week, Asia watchers snapped to attention. The normally sage Indian prime minister accused Beijing of seeking to expand its reach in South Asia. With China muscling for resources and geopolitical clout, India, he warned, had better take heed. The timing of the rare public rebuke was especially provocative, as it came hot on the heels of a series of diplomatic flare-ups between the two giants. Temperatures on the continent are rising in step with the Asian rivals' growth.
China has, for more than a year, been angering India by refusing to issue normal visas to residents of Indian Kashmir. It is also stoking Indian fears of being encircled by a Chinese infrastructure build-up in northern Pakistan, and Indian Ocean port and rail developments in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Last month, India's excitable media seized on reports that China has stationed as many as 11,000 troops in northern Pakistan, feeding growing fears of the "Chinese dragon."